Greenhouse Gases : Sources of Greenhouse gases

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Greenhouse Gas (GHG) is a gas in atmosphere which absorbs and emits radiation within the electromagnetic thermal infrared range. They are the main reason of the Greenhouse Effect which is the leading cause of Global Warming. Major greenhouse gases in Earth's environment are water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone.

The average temperature of Earth's surface would be about 15 °C colder than the present average of 10 °C in absence of GHGs. Anthropogenic activities from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution have led to a 40% increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO2, from 280 ppm in 1750 to 400 ppm in 2015.

This rise has taken place despite the absorption of a large portion of the emissions due to various natural ‘sinks’ involved in the carbon cycle. People induced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions come from combustion of carbon-based fuels, aggravated with deforestation and soil erosion. Earth's temperature will exceed normal temperatures, with likely harm to ecosystems, biodiversity and the livelihoods of people.

List of the most abundant Greenhouse Gases in the Earth’s Atmosphere:
  • Water Vapour (H2O)
  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
  • Methane (CH4)
  • Nitrous Oxides (NOx)
  • Ozone (O3)
  • Chloroflurocarbons (CFCs)

List of sources of major Green House Gases

  • Water Vapour and Clouds :
    A major part of the Greenhouse Effect is due to water vapour and clouds, between 36% and 72% for clear sky conditions and between 66% and 85% with clouds. Water vapour concentrations differ from place to place. On an average water vapour stays in the atmosphere for about nine days, compared to years or centuries for other greenhouse gases such as CH4 and CO2. The atmospheric concentration of vapour is highly erratic and depends on temperature; from less than 0.01% in extremely cold regions up to 3% by mass in saturated air. Water vapour amplifies the effect of the other greenhouse gases. Warming due to increase in concentration of the other greenhouse gases also will heighten the concentration of water vapour.
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2):
    Carbon dioxide is added to the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels (coal, natural gas and oil), solid waste, trees and wood products, and due to chemical reactions (e.g., manufacture of cement). Carbon dioxide is taken away from the atmosphere when it is absorbed by plants as part of the biological carbon cycle. Plants are thus acting as ‘Natural Sinks’ to absorb the excessive CO2 from the atmosphere. This happens during the process of photosynthesis to produce food. Thus deforestation enhances the process of Global Warming as it strips the surface of Earth of these natural sinks.
  • Methane (CH4):
    Methane is 84 times more potent than Carbon Dioxide in the short term. It is far more destructive to the climate as it effectively absorbs heat. Over 60% of total CH4 emissions come from anthropogenic activities. Methane is emitted by natural sources such as wetlands, as well as human activities such as leakage from natural gas systems and the raising of livestock.
  • Nitrous oxide (N2O):
    Nitrogen is a staple for farmers to produce better crops. But too much nitrogen is wreaking havoc on the environment. Much of the fertilizer is wasted, going into nearby water bodies, causing dead zones where algal blooms strangle marine life. ‘The problem is how to maximize nitrogen’s benefits while thinning its negatives.’ Vehicle exhaust, power plant exhaust, and large-animal feeding operations are all sources of nitrogen emissions. This amplified nitrogen is causing global warming, smog & acid rain.
  • Troposphere Ozone (O3):
    Large amounts of ozone are produced by photo-chemical reactions in the troposphere. This is also increasing the levels of Air pollution in the atmosphere and subsequently rising the surface temperature of Earth. It has caused one third of all the direct greenhouse gas induced global warming seen since the industrial revolution. It has a very short life and concentrations vary massively regionally.

Read More:
What is Global Warming? Reasons behind Global Warming
Coal Energy: Pros and Cons of Coal Energy
Benefits of Solar Energy
Biomass Energy : Advantages and Disadvantages


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